Clay family looks back on second anniversary of the Jan. storms - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Clay family looks back on second anniversary of the Jan. 23 tornadoes

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CLAY - AL -

 Thursday marks two years since a deadly tornado hit Jefferson County. Some communities are still recovering. The EF-3 tore apart hundreds of homes and took two lives. Some areas didn't get state or federal funding to help with cleanup costs. That meant projects like parks and re-paving were delayed. But today, Clay's mayor signed a deal with the county to pave Old Springville Road and Deerfoot Parkway. He says finishing most tornado cleanup has the city financially stable again.

While those cities are beginning to heal physically the families impacted are healing emotionally.  Tonight, we spoke with the family who lost their teenage daughter in the storm. 

"Minutes after it happened, just devastation like a bomb went off, like a war zone," Dr. Charles Hart, a local veterinarian said.

"You never think you'd be able to pinpoint the worst day in your life - unfortunately we can," Darrell Heichelbech, who lost his daughter said. 

January 23, 2012. 

The Heichelbech family lost their home and everything they owned along with their 16 year old daughter, Christina. 

"We had friends from church, who, when we came out of the hospital we didn't have anything," Heichelbech said. "We didn't have clothes and they were able to get us clothes right away."

"A teenage had been killed," Hart said. "Didn't realize it was her until late that afternoon."

Sarah: "What was that like when you found out it was her?"

"Heart sank," Hart said. "She was part of the family."

Christina wanted to go to Auburn and become a veterinarian. She spent time volunteering at the Clay Chalkville Animal Clinic.

"We started a scholarship in her name and endowed it which means someone will get a scholarship every year and learn about her story," Hart said.

"It means so much that her memory will live on," Carol Heichelbech, Christina's mom said. "And something that meant so much to her can help someone else."

The family considered moving, but rebuilt where their house once stood.

"We wanted to see those faces again," Heichelbech said. "The people that our kids grew up with and the people we've come to know as a second family over the years."

Her dad showed us a quilt - a housewarming gift - made from her t-shirts salvaged in the wreckage. 

Christina is now part of city history. This proclamation makes January 23rd "Christina Heilchelbech Day." 

"She brought so much to our lives and so many other people's lives," her mother said.

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